What the Chunnel Crisis Reveals About Immigrants

The tunnel under the English Channel connects two nations with markedly different economic situations and government policies. Which would appeal more to immigrants?

Great Britain has one of the hottest job markets in the developed world. Unemployment is at a 10-year low and labor force participation is at a 44-year high. Meanwhile, the size of government and the availability of benefits have been contracting for the past 5 years and are slated to do so even more in the future.

France in contrast has rising, double-digit unemployment, and a regulatory climate that makes starting one’s own business extraordinarily challenging. But under the Socialist government, the state is massive and benefits are generous.

Which side of the Chunnel would you expect thousands of immigrants to be risking their lives to reach? If, consistent with stereotype, immigrants were spongers by nature they would be clustered on the British side, ready to risk everything to run from a job rich-economy and into a skyver’s paradise. But in reality they are on the French side, desperate to get to the employment opportunities that could await them on the other side of the Chunnel. Indeed, some of them have died trying to flee from a land of government benefits to a land of work.

From that, draw your own conclusions about the values and dreams of immigrants.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.